Monday, July 18, 2011

Virtual Learning Environments (Session 9)

Virtual Learning Environments
     Nowadays  that science and  technology  have contributed with the advance of many fields of  society , we teachers can not deny the fact that changes in education  have been ocurring, and they  are just around the corner.  We can not think of the teaching-learning process   as it was thought of  ten or twenty years ago. Technology has undoudtedly  made this important process happen beyond   the limits  of the physical infrastructure.  Now learning environments are not only physical : a building, four walls and a roof, but virtual: with no physical  boundaries.    
     A virtual learning environment  (VLE)  is “ a system that creates an environment designed to facilitate teachers in the management of educational courses for their students, especially a system using computer hardware and software, which might  involve both face to face and  distance learning” ( Wikipedia, 2011)
     It has been stated   that these environments were originally created   for distance education, however, with the passing of time, they started to be  used to support and complement traditional face to face  classroom activities: blended learning.
   There are certain  elements a VLA should implement. Some of them are:
ü  The syllabus for the course.
ü  Administrative  information.
ü  Students registration.
ü  Basic teaching material.
ü  Additional resources such as links to spaces on the Internet.
ü  Assessment.  Among others    (Wikipedia, 2011)

    Once  all these elements have been incorporated ,  It is the job of the teacher to exploit all them fully to get the most advantages of them.                                   
   According to Dillenbourg  (2000),  VLE  own certain characteristics, which may make them  achieve the goals they have been created for.                     Some  of these characteristics   are: students are not only active, but also actors, they co-contruct the virtual space. This means that they are not restricted to consuming web information, they become information producers as well.    VLE are not restricted to distance education , they also enrich classroom activities. They integrate heterogeneous technologies and multiple pedagogical approaches.  
    In the TEFL field, VLE are seen as very effective platforms. These virtual environments are considered as   useful and successful as face to face ones.  They may actually complement each other.
     At Univesidad Maritima del Caribe there is this online platform “Sistema de Aprendizaje Interactivo  a Distancia” (SAID)  created in MOODLE which has brought a lot of benefits to the campus in regards to physical space, time contraints, and resource economy.
     This platform has been created aiming at the design and offering  of intructional modules, subjects and programs  to be developed under the distance learning mode.
     UMC teachers who may want to instruct using  the SAID platform must take a six-month course (diplomado)  to learn how to work  with it.
     I was offered the opportunity to take this course and the experience was really worth it.  I was taught how to use all MOODLE predetermined  tools   such as: forums, tasks, questionnaires, lessons, and how to design and administer  instructional modules.
     Right now, I am using this SAID  platform   not only to instruct and assist distance learners who are taking the module Instrumental English II for  the   three-year major  Transporte Acuatico, but also to complement my face to face classes. This is somehow a new experience for my students, and believe me they are as amazed as me to see and realize  how productive and supportive for their learning  such a platform like this can be.

Link to UMC Virtual Room

References: See reference page


  1. Dear Cesar,
    Congrats for your blog and also for sharing comments and information. Teachers at UMC are very lucky to have SAID as a platform for working with students. Sometimes, teachers do not see opportunities for evolving due to several reasons, and sometimes these reasons can be wrapped up as being scared to get out of their comfort zone. I really hope that you all make the difference and start the new comming technological phase at UMC.

  2. I will take your words dear Nai. So be it!